Surfin’: A Town Without Pitney
By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
ARRL Contributing Editor
This week, Surfin’ scours the Internet for yet another musical ham.
Two weeks running, I have written here about hams I know who sing or sang for a living. In response, Paul Walcott, WD8H, e-mailed me that the late rock crooner Gene Pitney was a ham, too.
That was news to me! Gene Pitney was a Connecticut native, lived 30 miles up I-84 from me, attended UCONN (like me) and I was a big fan, yet I had never heard that he was a ham.
Skeptical, I asked Paul what was his source for this bit of ham trivia and he wrote back. “When I was still in high-school (1967 graduate), the sister of another local ham about my age was into reading all the fan magazines about the then current music stars. One of the articles was about Gene Pitney and included a picture of him in his shack, including a number of QSLs hanging on the wall. Since Gene’s call sign was not given, the brother ham pulled out his Callbook and looked up the call of each QSL and eventually found the one which was Gene’s own.”
Paul could not remember Gene Pitney’s call sign, so I began poking around the Internet. I found an article confirming that Gene was a ham, but no mention of his call sign.
I wrote to my intrepid editor (and fellow Red Sox fan) Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA, at ARRL Headquarters to see if anyone at 225 Main Street had a clue about Gene’s call sign. No one knew, but Assistant VEC Manager Perry Green, WY1O, passed along some helpful information, and one of the ARRL IT guys, Hugh Brower, KB1NFI, e-mailed me that Gene’s brother “runs Pitney Farm in Ellington, Connecticut.”
I Googled the farm and the results indicated that it was no longer in business, but Google did list a phone number. I called that number at different times of the day, but there was never an answer except for a fax machine that kicked in after the fourth ring. I found Gene’s brother’s personal phone number, too, but there was no answer there either.
I asked around other places, like at a Gene Pitney fan site, but so far, no call sign. WD8H put out a call on the e-mail list of the Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA), but no one knew there either.
Any mention of the Pitney-ham connection on the Internet is rare, but I pursued each one I found. For example, on a non-ham e-mail list, a ham in the UK mentioned that Gene was a ham. So I e-mailed him, but he did not know Gene’s call.
Grasping at straws, I researched another ham with the surname Pitney, but the online obituary of that ham’s relative indicated that he was not likely related to Gene.
I still have a few irons in the fire. Perhaps, one of them will be fruitful and return Gene’s call sign. Meanwhile, if any readers know the answer to this mystery, please e-mail me.
Until next time, keep on surfin’.